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2018 Girls Tennis Player of the Year: Central’s Kim enjoys stellar freshman season

Central's Michelle Kim returns a shot from George Mason's Maria Morris during a match this season in Woodstock. Kim, a freshman, went 19-2 and was a Class 2 individual singles state semifinalist this year. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Michelle Kim couldn’t have asked for much more from her freshman season.

The Central girls tennis standout lost only two singles matches all season and advanced to the state semifinals in her first year of playing the sport at the high school level.

“I’m really happy with how I did,” Kim said. “I didn’t expect to do as well as I did. I just wanted to play my game and improve. I didn’t expect to go to states, but I’m glad I did.”

Kim, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2018 Girls Tennis Player of the Year, went 19-2 on the season and won the Region 2B individual singles title.

She went undefeated in the regular season but had a couple of memorable matches that helped build her confidence.

On April 10, Kim rallied to beat East Rockingham’s Olivia Offenbacker. Kim trailed 5-2 in the match and rallied for six straight games to win, 8-5.

Central coach Matt Smith said the match that stood out the most to him was Kim’s victory over Clarke County’s Katie Crandall, 8-6, on April 19.

“She was down, and she was close to losing it,” Smith said. “She was down, and she stayed tough and inched it out. And I think that boosted her confidence too because I think as we went along she wanted to go undefeated as well. That was a good match for her. I think it was a windy day that day and her normal game wasn’t on. And to be able to kind of stick through it; I think she grew as a player that day.”

Kim suffered two ankle sprains during the season, which Smith said slowed her down a little bit. She missed two matches due to the injuries. After the second injury, she sat out for a week to end the regular season and returned for the postseason.

In the Bull Run District individual singles tournament Kim suffered her first loss of the year to George Mason’s Maria Morris, 7-5, 6-2. However, Kim would avenge the loss and defeat Morris for the third time of the season in the Region 2B individual singles final and secure a state tournament berth.

In the region final on May 22, Kim won the first 6-2 and led 3-0 in the second set when Morris retired due to injury.

“Beating (Morris) was a great moment because she’s a really tough player,” Kim said. “I don’t know how I beat her. At regionals, it was really tough. She was playing really well. Each game was so close. And I’m just glad I was able to pull through.”

On June 7, Kim lost to Maggie Walker’s Anna Soffin in the Class 2 state semifinals, 6-1, 6-0, at Virginia Tech. Soffin went on to win her fourth straight state title later in the day.

“It was a good learning experience,” Kim said. “And I was happy that I was able to go. And even though it wasn’t the result that I wanted, I think she definitely deserved to win more than me. Now I know what I need to work on. And I’ll be prepared for next year, and I’ll know what to expect.”

Kim said that she started playing tennis when she was 7 years old and has always loved the sport. Kim said that she practices a few times a week, including a weekly lesson from former University of Virginia men’s tennis player and coach John Dokken at Stonebrook Club in Winchester.

Kim said she also plays on weekends with her dad, who has been a significant influence on her game.

“My dad is probably my biggest coach,” Kim said. “I wouldn’t have done as well this season without him. He sets goals for me, and he pushes me and helps me a lot. I’m really glad I have someone to hit with and help me improve. And I’m really glad I have him.”

Kim said her teammates were very welcoming to her and made her feel like part of the team right away. As a team, the Falcons advanced to the Region 2B semifinals, just one win shy of a state berth.

She also played at No. 1 doubles with teammate Madison Smith. The pair only lost three matches all season, including the Region 2B individual doubles semifinals.

After getting a taste of the state experience in singles this past season, Kim said she has even bigger goals for her sophomore year.

“I want to go to states (in singles) and maybe win,” Kim said. “And I also want to go to states for doubles, and even as a team too, I’d like to go to states. No one’s graduating (from the top six), so I think we’ll be better next year.”